More than just meh; it’s offensive

2014-06-29 15:00

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Cape Town artist Alice Mann’s portrait series, Domestic Bliss, has received a lot of attention on the interwebs – mostly of the “WTFF” or “meh” variety.

It is time to call these images out for exactly what they are: offensive. They depict yet another story of black domestic workers in the wealthier suburbs of the republic by the sea.

Hashtag original. Not.

And while Mann might think she has encouraged critical discussion on the subject, these women are simply props in a story about her own white privilege.

In the rationale on her website, Mann tries to explain the complexity of the relationship between domestic workers and their workplaces, but the images do not in any way reflect this nuance.

Instead, we are presented with nondescript black faces, with no sense of the value or identity of the women.

We are not offered their surnames. Their African first names are not even used. They’re just more Sophies and Sheilas.

We see the domestic workers sitting in the kitchen or lying on an impeccably made bed, staring apparently contentedly into the camera. There is no irony, no context, no critique.

Maybe Octavia and the others are thrilled with their position in these white homes, but I think this is highly unlikely. What is much closer to reality is that these women leave these images and these homes, and return to the unequal reality of the society we live in.

The series is certainly not about their domestic bliss.

It’s about the bliss that these women allow their employers to enjoy.

Mann, other artists and the spaces that publish their work should not be able to ride roughshod over women like this in favour of a touching, post-apartheid narrative.

See the work at

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions. publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.